Correcting misconceptions about St. Vincent de Paul deal

By: 
Bart Turner, Barrel District Councilmember

I appreciate that two of my fellow City Councilmembers recently took the opportunity to explain their support for the sale of a city owned 7,000-square-foot building in downtown Glendale for $25,000.  I am happy to share with your readers why I opposed that sale, but before I do, I need to correct a few misconceptions.
First, the St. Vincent de Paul building has not been sitting empty and deteriorating for 10 years.  The city purchased the building from the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 2008 and leased it back to them for the next seven years.  
Secondly, the building is in good repair.  True, the building has been unoccupied for the last three years, but it has been maintained by the city as needed over that time. The building appears to be weather tight, and remains free from vandalism or other damage. Built as retail space, the building has a wide-open floor plan with original roof support posts running down the middle of the space.  The two restrooms would need to be modernized to ensure handicapped accessibility. According to a city analysis from just one year ago, the roof structure, exterior walls, and floor slab do not need to be replaced.  Naturally, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC requirements would vary with the intended future use. In short, this building is in no better and no worse condition than most others in our downtown.
Lastly, the current interested party, C+D Industry, is not the first or only group to express an interest in purchasing or leasing this building from the city. An adjacent property owner has repeatedly expressed interest in purchasing the building, and had even reached an agreement with the city in 2012, but the city changed its mind. The offer for the building at that time was somewhere north of $400,000. Other recent attempts to activate this building have been made by a micro-brewery and an arts center. No doubt, the fact that twice since 2014 the City Council has stated in open meetings that the building is not for sale has reduced additional inquiries into its availability.
Now, to my concerns about the proposal at hand. In addition to the low $25,000 sale price, the development agreement promises the new owners a $10,000 credit toward building permit, plan review, and inspection fees and a $50,000 matching grant from the city to offset costs necessary to bring the building up to current building code standards. In short, one could say, Glendale taxpayers are paying C+D Industry $35,000 to purchase the building.
The building and surrounding property is zoned Pedestrian Retail and is within our newly designated Entertainment District. C+D Industry intends to manufacture outdoor tables and benches from welded steel and reclaimed lumber. You can see their product line at www.cplusdindustry.com. In that this use is not allowed in Pedestrian Retail zoning, the building would most likely need to be rezoned to M-1 (light industrial). This type of “spot zoning” is generally frowned upon in that it locates conflicting uses adjacent to one another. Other businesses on this block include a hair salon, a restaurant, and attorney’s offices.
It has been represented that this new business will add significantly to sales tax revenues the city receives from our downtown. From the C+D Industry website, though, it seems they sell most of their product via the internet or wholesale to designers. Generally speaking, local cities do not receive sales tax revenue from internet and wholesale activity, so tax revenue expectations may need to be adjusted.
The sale of the building does not include any dedicated parking. For most retail business, that would not be an issue because there is ample free public parking available throughout our downtown. However, for a business that will need to have heavy steel and lumber delivered by truck this could be a problem.  In the development agreement linked to the sale of this building the city agrees to create a loading zone for this business if requested. This would mean the loss of on-street parking spaces which are currently used by neighboring businesses and their customers.
The other major area of concern I have regarding this sale is that the process has not been transparent. Twice in recent years, the Council has said this property was not for sale. Before any discussions were entered into with anyone seeking to purchase the building, the city should have first determined if there was any city need for the building, and if not, declared the property was for sale. Then it should have been advertised for sale with a sign on the building, by listing it with a commercial real estate broker, or by initiating a request-for-proposals process. We should have then considered all ideas and offers, and then decided on which was best.
I feel the City Council owed it to our citizens to be transparent and to publicly offer the property for sale. The current proposal might have turned out to be the best - but unless we go through an open and transparent process the Council is not going to know that, and our citizens are not going to know it, either.  

 
 

 

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